กกกกThe Bonan is one of
China's smallest ethnic minorities, with only 16,505 people. Its
language belongs to the Mongolian branch of the Altaic language
family and is close to that of the Tu and Dongxiang ethnic minorities.
Due to long years of contacts and exchanges with the neighboring
Han and Hui people, the Bonan people have borrowed quite a number
of words from the Han language. The Han language is accepted as
the common written language among the Bonans.
Judging from their legends, language
features and customs, many of which were identical with those of
the Mongolians, the Bonan minority seems to have taken shape after
many years of interchanges during the Yuan and Ming (1271-1644)
periods between Islamic Mongolians who settled down as garrison
troops in Qinghai's Tongren County, and the neighboring Hui, Han,
Tibetan and Tu people. The Bonans used to live in three major villages
in the Baoan region, situated along the banks of the Longwu River
within the boundaries of Tongren County.
During the early years of the reign
of Qing Emperor Tongzhi (1862-1874), they fled from the oppression
of the feudal serf owners of the local Lamaist Longwu Monastery.
After staying for a few years in Xunhua, they moved on into Gansu
Province and finally settled down at the foot of Jishi Mountain
in Dahejia and Liuji, Linxia County. Incidentally, they again formed
themselves into three villages -- Dadun, Ganmei and Gaoli -- which
they referred to as the "tripartite village of Baoan"
in remembrance of their roots.
Dahejia in western Linxia County is
the place where the Bonans mainly concentrated. The area is thickly
wooded and enjoys a moderate temperature supported by plenty of
water and lush grass, which make it suitable for farming and stockbreeding.
However, until the mid-20th century, under the heavy
burden of feudal oppression and exploitation, the place had been
bleak and desolate. In Dahejia, Bonan and Hui bureaucrats, landlords
and religious leaders owned large tracts of farmland, forests and
orchards. They also monopolized the river transport and owned 20
of the 27 water mills. The majority of the people were reduced to
tenants toiling under the severe exploitation of land rents and
usury. Rent in kind was a form of exploitation widely practiced
in the area. In most cases, rentals were as high as 50 per cent.
Exploitation by the landlords also took on other forms such as hiring
farm labourers on a long-term basis and trading in slave girls.
The Bonan people, mainly Muslims, are
divided into two different sects -- the Old and the New.
A sideline occupation for which Bonans
are particularly noted is the making of knives. A cottage industry,
the Bonan knives are famous all over China for their beauty and